Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: March 25, 2011
THIS IS in response to Rigoberto Tiglao’s column “Frenzy against Merci: eyes on the Senate.” (Inquirer, 3/16/11)
Tiglao stated that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez did not betray public trust when she ruled that Risa Hontiveros was not arrested in a rally in 2006. He said Hontiveros, then a party-list representative, was merely “taken out” of the rally by the police as an act of “courtesy” to a parliamentarian.
Let’s rescue the truth from Tiglao. A video of the event belies Tiglao’s fantastic Orwellian argument and proves that an illegal arrest was made: Hontiveros was forcefully dragged into a police car by police officers in violation of her rights as a citizen and of parliamentary immunity which is a constitutional principle.
Tiglao also depicted Hontiveros as motivated by “personal interests” in her pursuit to impeach the Ombudsman. To set the record straight, Hontiveros started her advocacy against corruption even before Gutierrez became the Ombudsman or Tiglao rose as chief apologist of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Tiglao tried to deconstruct Gutierrez’s low conviction rate by misinterpreting a PCIJ report, exulting her supposed 73-percent conviction rate, even claiming her performance was “stellar” with Joseph Estrada’s conviction for plunder under her watch. A quick scan of the report will show that Gutierrez’s conviction rate increased not so much because of the number of persons convicted, but because of the number of counts of offenses an accused was convicted of: “by number of actual persons convicted of corruption, the Sandiganbayan database shows that Gutierrez, in four years, has managed to secure the conviction of less than one senior official per year.” Tiglao wants us to celebrate an Ombudsman who is eager to convict a junior official of 221 counts of graft but is lukewarm to do the same to high-ranking officials similarly accused of corruption.
A separate report by the Ombudsman in 2008 also explained the “high conviction rate” as the result of plea bargains, which totaled 76 that year. Does Tiglao also want us to celebrate Gutierrez’s brand of plea bargains, such as what she struck with former Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia?
Even granting that Estrada was convicted of plunder under “Gutierrez’s watch,” this does not excuse her from ignoring major corruption by post-Estrada public officials. If Gutierrez “prosecuted” a former president, why didn’t she prosecute GMA and her underlings?
Finally, on the “blood-lust” against Arroyo, Tiglao confuses political lechery with the people’s genuine aspirations. I don’t blame him. Being GMA’s former executive officer, Tiglao views all aspirations, including our yearning for justice and accountability, as similar to GMA’s insatiable lust for power.
But in fairness to Tiglao, he got one thing straight: there is frenzy. It comes from those desperately trying to protect the Ombudsman and their political patron (GMA) from prosecution by attacking anti-corruption advocates like Hontiveros. Tiglao belongs to this frenzy by “Merci’s mercenaries.”
Acting president, Akbayan Party